Learning to Accept What I Can’t Control

***Originally posted on https://lifeinthespectrum.com/.

As one who has minor (ginormous) challenges with slight (immeasurably large) control issues, I have yet to find a way to master my emotional response to situations that don’t turn out according to plan (that I created in my mind regardless of anyone else’s plan or reality). While I am aware of this flaw in my thought process, I struggle deeply with disentangling my personal feelings from the scenarios that upset me even when I recognize that I can’t change them.

A few months ago, we moved to a unique suburban area that offered over-sized lots with a small forest of trees blanketing the back of the yards. My oldest daughter and I discovered a shared passion for wildlife photography (especially of the feathered variety). We have always loved birds, but we were clueless about the vast array of species that would appear when we shared a little space with a grove of native trees.

In addition we have since found countless animal tracks trotting across our yard (inside our entirely enclosed fence). Our family and friends have been entertained over and over again with photos from our game camera as well as our evening animal stakeouts (a.k.a. sitting together in the dark in my room while we all stare out the windows with binoculars in hand and wait for our eyes to adjust and the nocturnal zoo to reveal itself).

game cam1

This level of nature may not be for everyone, but it’s an absolute paradise to my crew.

So when I woke a few mornings ago to the sickening crack of massive trees being felled a few feet behind our home, I felt an indescribable sadness. Our lot backs up to a tiny creek that separates our property from the lots behind us. Despite having a massive lot and a huge amount of space available for any castle / pool / soccer field the a new resident might need, the builders bulldozed tree after tree to the ground. The birds flew madly and many pairs could be heard wailing madly for hours as their nests and chicks were stolen away from them.

trees1

This was the view from our lot a few days prior. We were upset with our own builder for clearing the back of our lot, but we were confident that the green space would be maintained.

To be clear, I’m not an unrealistic person nor do I live in a tree house of my own. I understand that even if it isn’t exactly what I want, many trees may have to come down to make room for a home, pool, and significant yard. But if you buy a massive wooded lot, why in the world would you ever destroy such natural beauty that took decades (or longer) to grow? Why come here at all? In addition, it was a clear violation of everything that we had been told about maintaining the larger trees. Although we rallied with the other neighbors beside us to get the builder involved and stop further mindless clearing, the damage was already done. The builder feigned confusion about the excess of clearing, and the destroyed trees were piled into an 18 wheeler and hauled away.

trees2

This quickly became our view as the bulldozer began to tear through the trees. They did significant additional clearing after this photo was taken, but I couldn’t stomach taking another picture of the decimated habitat.

There was a pair of great horned owls that lived in one of the trees behind us that is now gone. We used to see a thick forest when we looked across our back fence but now see power lines and electrical boxes running along the other street several hundred feet behind our lot. I feel so sad and I don’t know how to let that go. I can’t control their choices nor can I fix the damage they caused.

All I can do is pray that the sadness will fade and that hope will find a way in the end.

I can’t change what has been done, but I humbly ask that you please consider planting a very small native tree or shrub near your home, school, or park. Any home improvement or garden store should be able to offer basic advice regarding appropriate plant species. If not, google might have one or two (thousand) suggestions. People constantly asking us how we get these beautiful species in our yard, and the answer is truly so simple. They just need a little bit of help.

We can’t control the situations around us nor can we go back in time to undo a hurt once it has happened. But we can make better choices when others can’t or won’t. We can rise above the pain. We can recognize that anger may be warranted but cannot define our existence. And we can choose hope and prove that it’s more than an idea.

As Willy Wonka beautifully said, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams.”

And it’s true. Regardless of what is occurring around you, find your song and celebrate your dreams. Never forget that the smallest light can brighten the darkest room. Don’t let fear, hurt, or anger extinguish your brilliant glow. Find that beautiful spark that is an innate part of who you truly are, take positive action of your own whenever you can, and show the world what it’s like to shine.

Hugs to you all. Jo

***Originally posted on https://lifeinthespectrum.com/.

Life in the Spectrum – Depression is Not Black and White

Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

chickadee - soft (greys)

The use of black and white filters can be striking in the world of photography, but in the world of depression, black and white is nowhere to be found. Everything is shaded with countless shades of grey. I have spent decades attempting to figure out the right way to handle this or respond to that. Hoping to learn how to be more likable and more normal. Searching for a better approach to maintaining fulfilling relationships. Trying desperately to just be okay.

However it isn’t that cut and dry. Life is unpredictable and has a fierce habit of jerking the emotional rug out from under us when we least expect it. And when that happens, we hit the ground. Hard.

For someone with depression, an emotional takedown can be utterly debilitating. Maybe your energy drains to nonexistence and you find yourself unable to move or leave your bed. Perhaps you become enraged and begin to actively push away anyone who cares enough to try to offer support. Some people physically hurt themselves or try to anesthetize the pain away with alcohol or drugs. Others lose hope, give in to the pain and the lies their minds tell them, and give up altogether.

I genuinely understand the indescribable heaviness you feel when you are facing that dark night of the soul. I promise that I truly do. But I also know that no matter how dark it is in that moment – even if that moment feels like it has gone on and on – it does not stay like that. It always get better. Ironically it will go back to crappy again, too, but the good news is that the pendulum keeps swinging back and forth. As always, just remember to wait it out whenever that happens.

The truth is that this is how life goes for everyone. You don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the mental health diagnosis club to feel like an outsider, to believe that you are lost, or to be in a place of tremendous sadness or hurt.

We may focus on our weaknesses, but the heaviest of times often reveal our greatest strengths, too. If you can’t get out of bed today, that’s okay. The weight of that kind of emotional exhaustion can be suffocating, but the world will keep spinning for now. But get out of bed tomorrow.

If you are being offered genuine help from someone who loves and wants to be there for you, open the door instead of slamming it closed.

Avoid trying to mask to pain with alcohol or drugs. I get that it feels good in the moment, but those will tear you down on so many levels. The numbness won’t last, and you are left with a deeper emotional hole with every further attempt to hide from your life.

Open up to others in your life who will help you find your footing again, and seek professional help.

Above all, don’t ever give in to the pain, and don’t ever lose hope.

I don’t believe on any level that suicide is an indication of cowardice. Rather I see it as an act of absolute desperation and total confusion. People who take their lives become tremendously lost regarding what seems real versus what actually is real. They can recognize the absolute truth that every new day holds a promise of something better. Now I’ll admit that that doesn’t mean that the better whatever will come along today. But then again, it definitely could. If not, that greatly improves the odds for an even better tomorrow, so it makes practical sense to keep sticking around.

Although it might simplify our days, a world of black and white would be tedious and dull. We may perceive endless shades of grey in our lives, but we are also blessed with an endless array of other colors to brighten our days. Don’t forget to notice them in their innumerable forms, and don’t ever hide your own colors, your brilliance, or your beauty in an effort to blend in or be normal. You are so much better than normal, and you are so much more than mere black and white.

Much love to you always.  Jo

chickadee - soft (color)
Life is more beautiful with a splash of color.

What Do You Choose?

There have been some extremely rough headlines looping the news over the past few weeks.  I’m certainly not implying that the standard news is a bucket of rainbows and unicorns, but certain stories are under heavy discussion on social media at the moment. I’ve been upset by what I’ve been seeing as well, but I’m not going to detail any specifics of that here.  As a bonus, I’ll delete any comments that appear to be sporting the magical scent of Eau de Pandora’s Box.

However what I will say is this – there is boundless good in the country and in the world.

One month ago, countless residents in my city found themselves several feet under water.  The rain continued to inundate southeastern Texas and the days to come would reveal tremendous losses for so many.

Before the rains ceased, people of all backgrounds were already wading through treacherous waters to help their neighbors. Others were en route to join the rescue efforts.  When the skies cleared, the rest of the community raced to assist anyone in need.

Taking care of our fellow Texans was all that mattered.  There was no distinction of class or color or faith or politics.  People housed family members, friends, and strangers.  The number of volunteers and physical donations were so extensive that shelters had to turn them away repeatedly.  The neighboring states came out in force as well, and support poured in from every corner of the globe.

The hurricane created areas of devastation that brought many of us to our knees from grief.  However the response of love in return was stunningly beautiful.  I sincerely believe that this incredible experience of broad human benevolence was the divine gift of the storm.  A gift such as that is rare and precious and should never ever be forgotten.

The darkest hours often serve as the times when the brightest light can be found.  We stand by each other when the most difficult moments of our lives confront our communities.  The differences vanish, and we see the Truth that we are souls united together in this human experience.

We are going to have our differences – huge differences.  There will be times when we will fiercely disagree with other people’s actions or words.  We will expect all to understand why we are right, and we will try to convince the opposing parties to concur absolutely with our “correct” views.  But as we grow angrier and louder, the lines of division get deeper and more pronounced.

Speaking personally, if you want to try to open my heart to anything at all, approaching me with ferocity and rage is the fastest way to shatter any chance of that happening.  Again I’m not saying that I don’t have strong emotions regarding what is happening.  I just know that I have walked a different path than every other person out there.  We each see the world through our own filters that are based on our personal experiences.

Of course I believe that I’m right (because I am!).  But then again, maybe I’m just right for what I personally know at this moment.  My responses to situations years ago seemed correct at the time, but they would not necessarily be the same as the responses I would have today.  Taking it a step further, I am genuinely saddened at some of the choices I made in the past, and if I was in the same situations today, I wouldn’t repeat those mistakes.  But I didn’t see it that way then.

We don’t have to agree, and if we did, I would be letting you know what’s correct (because as my husband can confirm, I have all the answers).  It shouldn’t take a mass tragedy to reveal the best parts of ourselves and of those around us.

So for this moment right now, I want to soften my own heart.  I’m going to turn my attention to the immeasurable good that I have experienced since the hurricane while I also remember the innumerable times I felt it before the storm.  I need to turn off the noise of the media and tune out the focus on a degradation of our communities.  There are endless numbers of beautiful true stories to be found.  If we choose to fixate on anything else, that’s on us.

Recognize that you will make different choices because your perspective is not the same as anyone else’s.  This is part of the grand design.  If you don’t like a choice someone else makes, make a different one.  If you are hurt by a person’s actions, don’t replicate the behavior.  If you really want to be heard by another, try truly listening to them first.  Your anger will never soften another person’s heart nor will it heal your own hurts.  But your sincere love and compassion just might.

Love and light always – Joanna

Landing the Chopper


Being accused of being a helicopter mother (one who perpetually hovers) is irritating beyond words and doubly so when you know that it’s true.  I prefer to think of myself as more of a Millennium Falcon kind of mom who swoops in to save the day with swagger and a tall hairy guy by my side.  In my version, the hairy copilot is my husband, we don’t ever have to hide out in a giant trash compactor, and my kid refrains from delivering me a swift death a few years down the road.

Earlier today I was walking through the house and heard a high pitched “cheep cheep cheep!” out one of the back windows.  Alarmed at the sound of distress, I rushed over to look and confirmed that there was a baby bird flailing around one of the plants in my garden. What was I to do?  I hadn’t hunted for worms and grubs since the local Wal-Mart had opened, and despite my newly acquired upper arm wings, I had yet to master the fine art of flying.  I’m not a licensed ornithologist (thank heavens because I’m sure that people would comment on that ID photo as well), but extensive reading has led me to suspect that my inability to fly may have something to do with the combined effects of gravity and my being a human.  So I stood there worrying immensely for three whole seconds.

And then the mama bird made her appearance. She looked about as worried as Snoop Dogg in a smoke shop.  That bird was chill fo’ shizzle.  She dropped off a bug and headed right back out.  Immediately thereafter the chick checked himself (before he wrecked himself) and got situated on a branch.

The baby bird was fine.  He was fine the whole damn time!  He was just testing out something new, and, unsurprisingly, it was unnerving for the little guy.

I keep replaying that scene in my mind and find myself heavily contemplating the clear lesson with respect to my own parenting choices.  I have come to the only logical conclusion one can reach after experiencing such a simple yet profound occurrence.  I’m going to have to hire the mama bird to raise my children as soon as she boots her bird kid out for good.  Between the two of us, it is obvious that she is the only mother that has figured this parenting thing out.

I, on the other hand, am immeasurably less chillax about my own children and their attempts to spread their wings.  Every inch of my soul wants for them to take flight, but it often feels like I’m screaming “Fly fly fly!!” while maintaining a death grip on their ankles whenever they attempt to do so.  They say, “I want to do XYZ,” and my immediate reaction is to steer them back toward ABC in an attempt to protect them from potential disappointment.  The bitter irony is that their efforts are rewarded with disappointment right out of the gate, because I never really allowed them to try.

So as I said previously, I’m going to have to hire the bird mom.  Or maybe…just maybe…I can learn a little something from the wisdom I saw today and give my own little chicks a chance to spread their wings while I release my grip (veeeery sloooowly).  Perhaps I can tie a string to their ankles and let it out millimeter by millimeter (like kid kites).  Clearly I don’t have the details worked out.  I just know that my kids are ready to soar, and I need to summon the strength within myself to allow them to do it.

***MoJo***

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